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How'd They Do That?
I.M. on Tap
Internal Medicine (I.M.) on Tap is a recurring event that was started by Minnesota's Early Career Physicians Committee in 2013. I.M. on Tap is designed to be an informal event for ECPs, residents, and medical students held over appetizers and beverages at a local pub. There is a speaker on a not-too-academic topic, and the setting is very informal. Previous topics have included the following: Is There a Doctor on the Plane?! What to Do if That Doctor Is You, How to Win the Student Loan Game, Millennials in Medicine, Sex Police: How the Department of Health Works for STI Contact Tracing, Musings From the Morgue: Working With the Medical Examiner, and Rx: Food.
On a practical level, there are multiple considerations that have led to success. One is scheduling events during nonholiday, nonsummer months. We typically hold events on a weeknight in January, April, and October after work. We specifically do not request RSVPs, as they can inhibit the last-minute, “I-can-make-it!” energy. Catchy titles, as well as vetted speakers who are comfortable with an informal setting, really help sell the event. Our Chapter sponsors the appetizers, and attendees purchase their own beverages. Each event is hosted in a private room at a local pub. Initially, we held the event only in Minneapolis. However, in recent years, we have expanded to annual events in Duluth and Rochester and included our colleagues in greater Minnesota. We've found that brand recognition has really helped and gets students to come back as residents. Oh, and a custom coaster also doesn't hurt. Cheers!
Amy K. Holbrook, MD, FACP
The Seed for the “Forest for the Trees” Humanism in Medicine Story Contest
In 2016, the ACP Colorado Chapter Council of Early Career Physicians (CECP) began a humanism in internal medicine story contest entitled “Forest for the Trees.” Intended to create a space for creative expression, promote mindfulness, and invite reflection on meaningful patient experiences, the story contest was the idea of then-CECP Chair Mary Anderson Wallace, MD, FACP. With the support of then-Governor Christie Reimer, MD, MACP, she and then-CECP Co-Chair Chad Stickrath, MD, FACP, applied for and secured a grant from ACP to fund the project.
Our aim was clear: “For internists, it can sometimes be easy to lose the ‘forest for the trees,’ so to speak, in our busy clinical practices and not pause to reflect on the meaningful experiences that we share with patients. To promote mindfulness in our profession, we invite you to submit a 750- to 1,000-word story about a patient who has had a particular impact on your growth as an internist over the past year.”
From a nascent acorn of an idea has hence an oak tree grown.
With story titles ranging from “Hey Shortie!” to “Now You See It, Now You Don't,” our medium-sized Chapter has had 43 submissions over the first 5 years. The top three winners each year are invited to share their story at our annual ACP meeting. This continues to be a conference highlight, with humanism stories interspersed between the conference's many clinical and scientific talks and workshops. Stories and their authors are also featured on the Chapter website and highlighted in the governor's newsletter. The endeavor also led to a logo contest. Our logo, designed by Ajay Major, MD, MBA, is shown above.
Over the past years, we have learned many lessons that we wish to share here in the form of tips for any chapters looking to recreate this or do something similar.
- Apply for grant funding from ACP. ACP offers chapter development funds to support chapter ventures. In our case, the grant was used to provide the top-three story writers with a paid night at the hotel venue where our conference takes place. In leaner years, we have paid for conference registration.
- Decide on eligibility up front. In our first year, we opened the contest to ECPs, residents, and medical students, as well as nonphysician affiliate members at an equivalent stage of training or practice. Authors had to be ACP members, as we utilized an online submission site set up by the national ACP office. By popular request, we opened the contest to all Chapter members in subsequent years.
- Decide whether it's okay for participants to submit multiple stories. We went with the “more-the-merrier” approach and allowed multiple submissions.
- Get buy-in from conference organizers. As mentioned, the best part for all about this contest is hearing the powerful stories read aloud at our annual Chapter meeting. It is not unusual for eyes to swell with tears. Coordination with conference organizers is key. We split the winners into 10-minute slots spread throughout our 2-day conference.
- Advertise, advertise, advertise. Busy clinicians, as well as fellows, residents, and medical students, often need an extra push or reminder to take the time to write and submit a story. We found a targeted e-mail or fliers distributed in the classroom, clinic, or hospital went a long way to dramatically increasing the number of submissions.
- Encourage upbeat stories. Especially this past year with exhaustion caused by COVID-19, many stories took on more somber tones. In past years, stories were of course mixed but often focused on hope, optimism, the wonders of our profession, and the resilience of humankind. This coming year, we aim to emphasize this mix and hopefully return to stories that tell the fuller spectrum of the amazing profession of which we are a part.
- Invite many and varied judges to minimize bias or favoritism. Decide on a judging method up front. We used an anonymous system so judges would not know the author.
- Invite authors to submit their stories to additional venues. While we explicitly did not permit stories published elsewhere to be eligible for our contest, we do permit and encourage contestants to share their stories elsewhere. Several stories have gone on to be published in the pages of humanities venues, such as JAMA Oncology and Hektoen International, a journal of medical humanities.
Juan N. Lessing, MD, FACP
Mary Anderson Wallace, MD, FACP
Dr. Mary Anderson Wallace is former Chair and Dr. Juan Lessing is current chair of the ACP Colorado Chapter Council of Early Career Physicians.